Scroll To Top
Issue Features

Rebels With a Cause

Rebels With a Cause


Prodded by a California stem cell'research ballot initiative that received 59% of voter support in November 2004, officials at the University of California, Los Angeles, have launched the school's Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Medicine. The institute will study stem cell'based approaches to treating cancer, neurological diseases, and HIV disease. The $20 million institute will conduct research using both adult and embryonic stem cell lines to gain better insight into how diseases develop; researchers also hope to identify new methods to treat these diseases, says UCLA chancellor Albert Carnesale. The institute will enable the university to 'build upon the existing body of knowledge for the benefit of people worldwide,' Carnesale says. UCLA scientists are already exploring how HIV blocks stem cell function as well as stem cell approaches to combating HIV disease, university officials say. One potential therapeutic approach would be to insert genes that promote antiviral activity in blood-forming stem cells and then reinsert these newly primed cells into the body. As the resulting blood cells form in the body, the gene would protect them from HIV infection. The UCLA AIDS Institute has already completed a Phase I clinical trial of this approach using adult stem cells. Researchers now hope to conduct a similar trial using embryonic stem cells through the newly launched institute. The use of embryonic cells would prevent having to isolate patients' cells, ease transplantation, and increase clinical usefulness, according to UCLA scientists. Researchers also are hopeful that adult and embryonic stem cell research at the institute will lead to revolutionary new treatments for Parkinson's disease, spinal cord injuries, Alzheimer's disease, cancer, and other neurological ailments, but they acknowledge that any such treatments are likely years or even decades away. 'Embryonic stem cells have the power to develop into every type of human tissue,' says Owen Witte, MD, who is a UCLA professor of microbiology, immunology, and molecular genetics as well as the director of the stem cell institute. 'If we can learn how they are regulated for growth and development, we can harness this knowledge to study tissue development and regeneration and potentially come up with new ways to fight many life-threatening diseases.' UCLA will devote $20 million over the next five years to the institute, which will bring together experts in bioengineering, imaging, molecular genetics, immunology, ethics, hematology-oncology, and cellular biology to collaborate on stem cell'related research. The money will pay for recruitment for a dozen new faculty positions, salaries, and expansion of highly sophisticated laboratory space, infrastructure, and supplies, according to university officials. Institute researchers will also be able to jointly apply for state-funded stem cell grants through the voter-approved new law that will provide $3 billion over 10 years for such research. The first such state grant applications are slated to be made available in May. A 29-member oversight and governing board will oversee the institute and review requests for funding. 'With the launch of this institute we realize our goal of bringing together scientific, ethical, legal, and policy experts from across the UCLA campus to focus on the great promise of stem cell research,' says Gerald S. Levey, MD, vice chancellor for medical sciences and dean of UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine. 'As dean, I am committed to advancing the full potential of stem cell research to find novel and more effective therapies to treat many diseases for which present-day therapy is either unsatisfactory or unavailable.'

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff and Wayne Brady

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories

HIV Plus Editors